PCT Stinson Beach 30K

065ladder2I have run many of the Pacific Coast Trail runs. None of them are easy. All of them are held in places with breathtaking scenery. Stinson Beach on Nov. 15 was no exception.

I wasn’t expecting the winding mountain road that leads from Hwy. 101 to the coast. But consider early in the 19th century the area was accessible only by sailing schooner from San Francisco, by horseback to San Rafael, or on foot over the Dipsea Trail. It’s still a sleepy resort community.

The drive made me a bit car sick, and even after arriving 30 mins. before the race, it took me 45 mins. into the race to shed the effects of the disorienting drive. The first five miles of the run is nearly all uphill. I wasn’t out to run hard so I chose to walk in many places and enjoy the cooling effects of the riparian ecosystem. The early going was some of the most beautiful, running along a creek bed, through redwood forest, and climbing the “Ladder” to scale a part of the trail.

The middle section is the easiest trail running anywhere. From the summit of the first peak, it was a 45-min. downhill run through sweeping vistas of the Bay Area. I could see Tiburon and Belvedere, Angel Island and San Francisco, and a panoramic view of the cliffs along the Pacific Ocean.

I was very mindful that we were running portions of the famous Dipsea Trail and the Miwok Trail, both known as very challenging courses. And I proved to be entirely out of trail shape for the second climb of the 30K. I walked for 45 mins. but didn’t mind at all. I was also surprised with the number of fallen trees across the trail. In a couple places, it looked like the entire mountain side had collapsed, leaving many trees bent over or completely uprooted. It added an additional measure of maneuvering to the already technical terrain.

The smartest thing I did was take two salt tablets in the latter half of the run. I knew it was going to be warm and I had regretted not taking salt tablets at the Silicon Valley Marathon. This time I was more prepared for the heat, but I underestimated how long it would take to finish. I was thinking 3 hrs., 15 mins. I finished in just over four hours.

About four miles from the finish as a group of us were running the single-track, I heard someone take a hard fall behind me. I stopped to see a woman who had taken a deep cut to her knee. I let her have my bandana which she used to wrap her wound. Two passing hikers offered to walk her down to the finish. I’m hoping she made it. She clearly needed stitches but the last two miles were very technical with steep steps.

I would have been happy just doing the 20K, but Stinson Beach was a great training run to kick off the ultra season. I need to decide how many trail runs I really want to do. Anything over 30K is a full day commitment, but there’s no place I’d rather run than a good trail.

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